Free professional developmentwebinars, resources offeredin wake of pandemic

Community Engagement; Public Health; Social Work

​Idled by the coronavirus, many public-service professionals are taking advantage of a new initiative from the Brown School faculty and staff: “Open Classroom,” a series of free, live webinars that are broadly applicable to the fields of social work, public health and social policy.

Offered mostly on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12:30 p.m. via Zoom, the sessions are led live by faculty, but also recorded for later viewing. Upcoming topics include School-Based Mental Health, Translating Research for Policy, and Epidemiology 101. The school is also offering a free list of on-demand resources offering expert advice and training on COVID-19, responses to the pandemic, and related topics.

The idea was born when Brown School community partners notified Dean Mary McKay that staff were unable to do their core duties due to the virus and were looking for productive ways to use their time, such as professional development.  Working with Janet Gillow, director of professional development programs, McKay asked for faculty volunteers to lead the webinars.

“Response to the Dean’s request in March was overwhelming,” Gillow said. “Our faculty really know how to show up. Within a day, I had 10 faculty volunteers and had arranged a five-week series that began the following week.” 

Within the first week of registrations, more than 1000 RSVPS were received; by May, more than 5,000. The team now has access to a dedicated webinar license, which permits up to 500 participants in each class. Gillow also has the option to send overflow to the Brown School YouTube channel. The sessions are now scheduled well into the summer. 

McKay, the Neidorff Family and Centene Corporation Dean, was struck by the demand for the webinars.

“The Brown School is humbled by the dedication of social workers, public health professionals, social policy specialists, health care providers and other service professionals in these challenging times,” she said. “The most vulnerable among us are experiencing further increases to their levels of need, stress and uncertainty.  We’re pleased to open our doors virtually to the community of helpers to share information, resources and solidarity. We think that more than ever before, good information and thoughtful connection are vital to our well-being and ability to carry on our professional missions.”

Gillow added that the RSVPs have been in great part from those who work with community partners and agencies in St. Louis, but also from alumni, field instructors, students, prospective students, university staff and faculty, as well as graduate students from other institutions. 

“We want to welcome all who want to join our Open Classroomand participate in the Brown School virtual family,” she said.

Learn more about the webinars and view the list of on-demand resources

Suggestions for webinar topics or free resources may be emailed to